Ethnic Minorities in Georgia

From <> Thu Dec 5 18:08:29 1996
Date: Tue, 3 Dec 1996 15:36:58 +0400 (BSK)
From: Committee for Human Rights and Ethnic Minorities of the Parliament of Georgia <>
To: Giorgi Topouria
Subject: Ethnic Minorities

Ethnic Minorities in Georgia

 	Historically Georgia has always been a multinational country 
promoted by its' geopolitical location. It was the crossroads of major
trade links involving replacement of large groups of population. In
addition to this there often were conqueror expansions resulting with
appearance of other ethnic groups in Georgia. The large -scaled settlement
of the Georgian territories by other ethnic groups occurred in late middle
ages and after the joining with Russia caused by certain reasons: number
of Georgian population has considerably diminished after some historic
cataclysms that involved the existence of non-inhabitant lands. Such lands
were occupied by the neighbour nationalities (Turkish, Azerian, Armenian
and the north Caucasian settlements).
	In the continuance of the whole 19-th and the beginning of 20-th
centuries a very difficult situation had occurred near the southern
borders of Georgia (in Anatolia and the whole middle East, which forced
asylum-seeker population to flee to Georgia (Armenian and Greek
	For the strengthening of its' influence the Russian Empire used to
re-settle some religious and military communities from Russia to Georgia
(the Dukhobors and Cossacks).
	This trend was maintained after the sovietization of Georgia. The
peculiarity of this period was that the new-comers were mainly settling in
the towns and there were not appearing their new compact settlements.

I.  Ethnic Composition of Population of Georgia

	There are living representatives of about 100 nationalities in
Georgia, but the ethnic groups are determined by their number and the
settlement compactness.  Armenians (437211 - 8 % of Georgian population) -
one of the largest ethnic minorities in Georgia. The places of
concentration are: Tbilisi and the southern regions (Akhalkalaki,
Ninotsminda). Also there is a concentration of Armenians in Abkhazia -
Gagra Region. The main mass of Armenians had re-settled from Anatolia
during the Russian-Turkish war. The majority of Armenians are Monofizists
and are the congregation of the Echmiazin Temple. The number of catholic
Armenians is comparably small. There are also Moslem Armenians- the so
called "Hemshins". Up-today there is strong migration process among
Armenian population. Mainly Armenian families flee from Tbilisi and
Abkhazia to Russia and USA. 
	Azerians (307556 - 6 % of Georgian population) - the regions of
settlement of Turkish speaking Azerian population are: Marneuli, Bolnisi,
Dmanisi and Gardabani. There is a lot of Azerians in Rustavi and other
regions of East Georgia. These settlements appeared in Georgia and the
whole Caucasus at the 14-th century (after the invasion of two Turkmen
tribes from the Central Asia). Absolute majority of the Azerians living in
Georgia are Shiite Moslems, though there are Sunnites also. The migration
process among Azerian population is not so extensive, because that they
have more stable income thanks to agriculture production.
	Russians (341172 - 6% of Georgian population) - the Russian ethnic
minority has no region of concentration, except the little religious
communities in Samtskhe-Javakheti and Kakheti. The majority of Russians
re-settled to Georgia during the soviet period and located in big towns. 
The majority of Russians living in Georgia are the ortodox Christians. The
number of mixed Georgian-Russian families is big. Up-today the migration
process among the Russian population is strong and they mainly are going
to Moscow and the central regions of Russia. 
	Ossetians - in accordance with the 1989 united census of
population there were 165055 (3%) Ossetians in Georgia. 65232 of them
lived in the South Ossetian Autonomy Region, where the Ossetian population
is the majority, but others were settled in Gori, Khashuri and Borjomi
regions. The majority of Ossetians are orthodox Christians, though there
are also Moslem Ossetians. There was a lot of mixed Georgian-Ossetian
families in the former South Ossetian Autonomy Region. At the moment there
is a strong migration process caused by the Tskinvali Region civil war.
Ossetians are mainly going to the North Ossetia, which is in the Russian
	Abkhazians - Because that the Abkhazian ethnicity formed on the
very territory they are living now they are not determined as the ethnic
minority. Abkhazians as well as Georgians are considered as the native
population and according to the Georgian Constitution Georgian and
Abkhazian Languages are declared the State Languages. Abkhazians are one
of the most complicated ethnic group by its' composition. The main mass is
consisted by North-Caucasian origin people related to the Adigean tribes,
though there are groups related to Georgian sub-ethnic groups: Svans and
Megrelians. In sum their number is 95853 - (2%). They are mainly
concentrated in Abkhazian Autonomy Republic. By the religious belonging
Abkhazians are divided into two groups: orthodox Christia ns and Moslems
(mohajiris). The number of the last ones was not big, because the
oppression by Russian Empire they were forced to flee to Turkey on 1870. 
At the moment as the result of the armed conflict the migration of
Abkhazians from Georgia is intensive, though on the other hand there is
the immigration process of the Moslem Abkhazians from Turkey to Abkhazia. 
	Greeks - (100324, 2 %) - there are living both the Turkish and
Hellenic speaking Greeks, mainly in the Tsalka and Tetritskaro regions. 
Also there are Greek settlements in Abkhazia and Adjara who call
themselves "Ponto Greeks". Their absolute majority is Orthodox Christians,
though there are sunnit Greeks also. There is a strong migration process
among Greeks, who are returning to their historic motherland.
	Jews - this is the most ancient ethnic minority living in Georgia. 
In accordance with the 1989 united census of population there were 24795
Jews in Georgia. They are mainly living in Tbilisi, Kutaisi and Oni. At
the moment most of Jews have left Georgia for Israel.
           Kurds - the majority of Kurds living in Georgia is yezids. 
Mainly they re-settled to Georgia from Ottoman Empire at the beginning of
the century, where they were oppressed because of their religion. Kurds
are mainly living in large towns. They have their own language and
	So when we are talking about ethnic minorities living in Georgia,
it should be taken into consideration that the existing compact
settlements of ethnic minorities promote the maintenance of their
originality and self-identification. Nowadays actual problem is that we do
not have any datas about the last years' migration and emigration
processes, which does not enable us to analyze the processes exactly. 
Decrease of the population is obvious by the superficial observance and
general datas, though it is hard to say that any of these minorities has
entirely left the country. By these datas there is a strong emigration
process among Jews and Greeks and comparatively stable among Azerians and

II.  Participation of ethnic minorities in the political and cultural life
of the country. 

	Unlike the other former soviet republics there were rather large
groups of ethnic minorities in Georgia even before the domination of
Russian Empire. The historic model of the relationship and coexistence of
these nations was already established. The re-settled groups of nations
were developing their culture and lifestyle in accordance with this model. 
That's why there were not created amorphous transnational political
organizations like "Interfront". Though there was the other side of it,
which promoted the national mood strengthening among the ethnic minority
and majority, which was used against the Georgian State and became the
base of the conflicts.  In case of political resolution it is possible to
restore the coexistence models on the grounds the relationship between the
groups in the Tskhinvali and Gali region. According to the 1995 election
results the ethnic minorities are actively participating in political and
cultural life, which was reflected in the new parliament composition. One
of the mechanisms that enables ethnic minorities to participate in the
country's political and cultural life is the existence of their communal
organizations, though we have some problems here too, because there are
radical forces that infringe on the state interests. There is a
comparative disbalance in the existence of hearths, particularly the
ministry of culture has only Russian and Armenian theaters and only in
Tbilisi. In Georgia we have 79 pre-school institutions, 7 - Armenian, 5 -
Russian, 2 - Azerian-Georgian, 2 - Russian-Armenian (the source of
information is the statistic's department). In accordance with the datas
given by the ministry of education there is a growing trend of Georgian
language study in the non-Georgian schools, which shows that the Georgian
language is replacing the Russian language and gaining the inter-national
status. It should be mentioned that the entire national integration in
Georgia is impossible, because that the majority of ethnic minorities come
from the neighbour countries that makes a big influence on their
self-identification ability. In such circumstances it is much better for a
country to have comparatively small ethno-cultural groups than only the
one large ethno-cultural group (for instance - the Russian speaking
population in the Baltic states), which will increase their motherland
country's influence on the political and social life of the country of

III.  The Sources

The rights of the national minorities to maintain and develop their
culture and traditions are guaranteed by the second chapter of the
Georgian constitution. That's why the "Draft law on ethnic minorities" is
the constitutional law. Before the adoption of the new constitution this
was regulated by the former constitution, civil and criminal codes and the
international conventions acceded by Georgia (The Vienna Convention on the
protection of ethnic minorities and the Euro-counsel recommendations). All
these above mentioned International documents are based on three main

1.  The national culture and originality development guarantees. 
2.  The participation of ethnic minority representatives in the state
3.  The guarantees to publish and disseminate the press and get primary
education on their native language.  It can be said that now the ethnic
minorities in Georgia have these constitutional guarantees and the draft
law explains the legal norms and conditions of the rights. 

IV.  Conclusion

	The ethnic minorities' issue is one of the most important problem. 
Ethnic minorities in Georgia have their own original culture and
traditions. In comparison with 1989 united census of population the
process of emigration is easily noticeable. In addition to this there is
another trend, particularly the representatives of ethnic minorities are
becoming more interested in Georgian language study, which shows that they
would like to participate in country's social-political life more
actively. The existence of their communal organizations proves this once
	In such circumstances the absence of law that defines these rights
implementation mechanisms, enables some anti-governmental forces (i.e.,
"Javakhki" organization) to play around the ethnic senses of non-Georgian
	During the implementation of ethnic policy it is necessary to keep
in mind the two circumstances: the first, there are
territorial-administrative autonomies in Georgia and the second, it is
impossible to achieve in Georgia such a level of integration as in America
or England, because the ethnic minorities in Georgia came from the
neighbouring countries, which makes a big influence on their
selfidentification ability. In such circumstances the cultural autonomy
existence together with the territorial-administrative autonomy is
necessary for those ethnic minorities who do not have the
territorial-administrative autonomy. 
	Thus the main strategy of the draft law on ethnic minorities
should be the maintenance of their originality and the existence of the
state guarantees for the protection of their interests, which will enable
the state to carry out flexible and useful ethnic policy.  

Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights and Ethnic Minorites of Georgia

Prepared by: 

The Head of the Staff
	Paata Zakareishvili
Senior Specialist
	Gimzer Zedelashvili
	Tato Urjumalashvili
Committee for Human Rights and Ethnic Minorities of the Parliament of Georgia <>

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